This time of year, the pace of events in our store and in my larger life is so swift I can hardly stay on top of things! Blink once and I’ve missed my chance to record my thoughts on any of it. Blink twice and a year goes by in which I still haven’t blogged about HALF the things that happened the previous fall. I’m TRYING not to let that happen this year, but…? Already there are signs of me slipping! Here, then, is my week-and-a-half late recap of my time at the the New England Independent Booksellers Association fall trade show. (Visit the blog of The Alphabet Garden in Cheshire, Connecticut to read another bookseller’s report!)
This year NEIBA took place in downtown Boston. On Thursday, the day of education, I made it to the convention center in time to speak on a panel of booksellers about upcoming favorite books to handsell for the holidays. I then helped set up for and attended our wonderful NECBA dinner, at which I had the pleasure of sitting with lovely booksellers, lovely Random House folks, and authors Richard Michelson and Jeanne Birdsall. Jeanne was one of this year’s three delightful dinner speakers, in excellent company with Laurie Halse Anderson and Norton Juster. All three of their speeches were unique and lively and replete with love for we booksellers (which is always a good way to win us over!). Before the start of the dinner I had a lovely time chatting with Laurie, Jane Yolen, new author Jack Ferraiolo, veteran author/illustrator/bookseller Leo Landry, and many other folks who came by to say hello and visit during one of our few path-crossing opportunities for the year.
Friday was my only day at the trade show this year, and I spent much of it bumping into fellow booksellers and talking with them about how things are going at their stores, or bumping into sales reps and catching up on the latest news in their lives. For me the trade show itself is rarely about the books, as I’ve already bought the fall list from everyone by this point in the season, so there’s little left to surprise me as I linger beside assorted booths and pick up the occasional poster or (better still) foil-wrapped chocolate. It is also, though, about meeting authors and illustrators who are attending the show to do book signings. In particular this year I had a terrific time talking with the always delightful Barbara McClintock, who was at the show signing copies of Adèle and Simon in America — one of my favorite picture books of the year. Gareth and I were both also thrilled to be introduced to Barbara’s partner, David A. Johnson, whose illustrations we’ve admired for years.
Months ago now, in May, Barbara came to one of our NECBA meetings and did a wonderful presentation about her books, in which I learned (among other things) that she is SELF-TAUGHT as an illustrator!! This still astonishes me, as the perfection of her execution smacks of years of schooling. But no. Barbara got her art education by borrowing art books from the library and meticulously replicating the paintings she found in them before returning one batch of books and bringing home another. Grace Lin wrote a wonderful blog post about Barbara after hearing her speak at an event sponsored by the Foundation for Children’s Books here in Boston last May. Read Grace’s post to learn the OTHER things I should have told you about Barbara months ago. (Bad blogger! Bad!) Here’s a photo I took during Barbara’s visit to our NECBA meeting . That’s Barbara McClintock on the left, librarian Bina Williams in the middle, and Flying Pig bookstore owner/Candlewick author Elizabeth Bluemle on the right.
But back to the topic of NEIBA. The only educational session I had time to attend even briefly on Friday was "How to Make Publishers Love You," in which various in-house experts talked about what makes bookstores stand out in their minds and how we booksellers can best work with publishers (and vice versa). Sadly I caught only about 15 minutes of the chatter from this esteemed panel before I had to head off to our store’s Brisingr-related festivities. I just have to hope that doesn’t make me any less loved with those publishers that aren’t Random House!